3 Ways Parents Can Ace Childhood Dental Care

Dr. Kyle Hornby

My name is Kyle Hornby and I am a Dentist in Kitchener, Ontario. Each week, I tackle subjects and answer FAQs to help raise the bar on dental health information available to the general public. Today, I'm going to tell you about the 3 most common problems we see at a Toddler's first checkup and what you can do to prevent those problems.

When you have a baby, it's a busy time and your world changes completely. As your baby grows into a Toddler, things don't necessarily become easier. When we see children for their first checkup (often at 2-3 years of age), there are a few common problems we see.

Oftentimes, the parents are upset and feel guilty but they shouldn't. There are so many bases to cover with a young child and despite best efforts, things don't always unfold perfectly. So, if you're reading this and have a child who needed dental treatment early in life, give yourself a break.

Now, I'll get into what we commonly see at a Toddler's first dental appointment and how you can minimize the risk of these things happening to your little gem.

Cavities Between Back Teeth

By the time your child is 2-3 years of age, they'll have 20 baby or deciduous teeth in their mouth. 10 will be on top, 10 will be on the bottom. In each corner of the mouth, your little one will have 2 baby molars as back teeth. Usually, there are spaces between most of all of their baby teeth (which makes for easy cleaning) but the 2 back molars in each corner will fit tightly side by side.

Why does this all matter?

Well, by the time we first examine teeth, we often see signs of cavity formation between a child's back 2 molars. You see, when there is little to no space between neighbouring teeth, food tends to wedge in and collect there. This is one of the top risk factors for developing a cavity. Unfortunately, you can't clean these tight spaces adequately with a toothbrush. So, try to floss your toddler's teeth (especially the back 2 in each corner every night). If it's a challenge, make a fun game out of it by playing music and letting them attempt to floss your teeth first!

The "Takeaway" Message: Daily flossing prevents commonly occurring cavities between teeth.

Cavities on Upper Front Teeth

We see many children at 2-3 years, who have orange and/or brown lesions on their upper front teeth. These are cavities and they are the result of "baby bottle tooth decay". The reason this occurs commonly is that babies and toddlers may become accustomed to drinking milk or juice from a bottle through the night. They may wake every 2-3 hours to breastfeed as a baby and transitioning them to sleeping on their own often involves substituting a bottle of milk or juice.

The difficulty arises when carbohydrates sit and stagnate on their upper front teeth through the night. Cavities can develop rapidly under these circumstances.

The "Takeaway" Message: If you can avoid giving your child milk or juice to sip from a bottle through the night, it will help you to avoid costly dental work later on.

The Open Bite

Some Toddlers will develop an "open bite" or gap between their upper and lower front teeth that is visible when they bite together or smile. The space looks like a perfect fit for a thumb or pacifier. This is because this dental-skeletal problem results from long-term thumb-sucking and pacifier habits.

Typically, the problem can be self-correcting if the child discontinues these habits by 3-4 years of age. However, where an open bite persists, future orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign may be necessary to treat the problem.

The "Takeaway" Message: Be supportive while encouraging your little one to gradually stop using a pacifier or sucking their thumb. If you are aware of these risks early enough, you can avoid giving them a pacifier altogether.

Thank you for reading today. If you have any other questions about early childhood dental health, ask your Kitchener Dentist for advice and helpful information.

By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Kitchener Dentist

Our Kitchener Dental Office is conveniently located in Downtown Kitchener. We are a short drive away for families in Waterloo, Breslau & St. Jacobs. Our central location means we truly offer family dentistry near you!

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.

Enjoy a fresh start.
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